Patients hospitalwide more likely to die when ED is overcrowded: study

Emergency department crowding affects death rates hospitalwide, according to a recent study from University Park, Pa.-based Penn State and the University of California San Francisco. 

Researchers examined more than 5 million discharge records from California hospitals between October 2015 and December 2017, according to a Nov. 4 article on Penn State's website. They compared these with the number of people in the hospitals' emergency departments to complete their analysis, which was published in the journal Health Sciences Research

The study found that on days when emergency department occupancy was above average, patients across the hospital were 3.1 percent more likely to die. When emergency departments were most crowded, patients were 5.4 percent more likely to die than on a day with average or minimal crowding. 

"We are not saying that people are dying because of emergency room crowding," Charleen Hsuan, PhD, lead author of the study and assistant professor of health policy and administration at Penn State, said in the article. "The causes of death have not been explored. What these results show, however, is that hundreds more people died every year in these hospitals when emergency departments were crowded than when emergency departments were less full. Whatever the reason or reasons, that phenomenon is clearly important to understand."

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